GIS:-Saint Lucia’s Agriculture Ministry Works with Farmers to Improve Yields.
The Government of Saint Lucia is focusing efforts on increasing banana production, following the successful management and control of the Black Sigatoka Disease.
Kerde Severin, Project Manager for the Banana Productivity Improvement Project, said the project’s scope has widened.
“Previously we had the Black Sigatoka Unit that focused mainly on controlling the Black Sigatoka Disease,” Mr. Severin explained. “But with this new project, we have realized that Black Sigatoka is only one element, if we are looking to increase both production and productivity, so as a result we have expanded that role of the unit into the Banana Productivity Improvement Project. We have brought in a couple of agronomists., and we have also enhanced the technical capacity of the field staff.”
Project facilitators have also made upgrades to a few standard practices, in order to boost the success of the initiative.
“We have used a different approach. Previously, what obtained was the farmer usually determined when he should spray, feeding off information provided by the ministry. But what we do now—and it started under the Black Sigatoka project—is we use scientific data from the field that will indicate when to spray.
“The more critical thing that has happened is because of the effect of the Black Sigatoka on some of the fields, quite a number of farmers were unable to sell bananas because their fields were infested [resulting in a loss of income]. So, we made a change. For those persons who cannot afford to pay now, we will provide the necessary material, and once they begin to harvest and they begin to market their produce, they will be in a position to pay back, and that change has made a big difference.
Another thing we have done is to work in clusters. So if there are 10 or 15 farmers in any particular region, all those persons will spray at the same time. As a result of these approaches we have seen a marked improvement in the management of the Black Sigatoka.”
Mr. Severin said weekly field data collection, and consistency in the management of banana and plantain crops should result in substantial gains.
“This is basically where we are now. We continue collecting data every week, this data is processed, and on the basis of the data we advise what areas need to be sprayed, and what fungicide should be used for the control of the disease.”